Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Rhythmanalysis in Taxicabs and Soft Cabs: a report from three North American cities

Here is the abstract of my latest publication, a chapter in Rhythmanalysis: Place, Mobility, Disruption and Performance, edited by Dawn Lyon, and just now out in print:

Rhythmanalysis in Taxicabs and Soft Cabs: a report from three North American cities

Just who is the “analyst” who practices rhythmanalysis? The extension of the name “rhythmanalyst” to other than scholarly practitioners makes possible an investigation of the relationship of rhythmanalysis to other rhythm-analytic forms of knowing and representing urban space, and the ways in which these differing but related practices may challenge, undermine, or inform each other. In this paper, drawing on years of ethnographic and autoethnographic research in three North American cities, I discuss the rhythmanalytical practice involved in cabdriving, as this is shaped by the technologies drivers use to sense the city, and by the transformation of the taxicab into the “ridesharing” or soft cab. First, I discuss the occupational knowledge and wayfinding practice of cabdrivers, and the extent to which their work requires the development, by means of a variety of tools and practices, of a sense of the city as composed of multiple interacting rhythmic movements, or polyrhythmia, with which they must strategically converge and facilitate. Second, I discuss the redelegation of the role of rhythmanalyst to predictive algorithms and mobile interfaces, as part of the reinvention of the taxicab, and its associated micropolitics and power/knowledge relations, by smartphone enabled hailing and dispatching services. Struggles over, and transformations of, these non-academic forms of rhythmanalysis may provide insight, in turn, into the contemporary politics of the production of social space.

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